PREVIEW: Toronto Maple Leafs hope rest will help rebound effort vs. Canucks

Mar 4, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) and forward Jake Virtanen (18) celebrate their victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third period at Rogers Arena. Canucks won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be a more rested team and they hope that is the key when they seek a split of a two-game set with the host Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

The Canucks played a tight game Thursday in their 3-1 victory over the Maple Leafs, who had completed a three-game sweep of the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday. Toronto was playing its third game in four nights.

“I think a day’s rest certainly is going to help us,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I think that’s a no-brainer.”

The Canucks were without their No. 1 center Elias Pettersson, who was scratched because of an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. He has 10 goals.

The Canucks had a strong performance from goaltender Thatcher Demko, who made 31 saves, and had two goals from Jake Virtanen and one from Bo Horvat.

“If (Virtanen) can bring that game to the table every night, he’s an effective player in the league,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “I was happy for him to have a big game for us tonight. That’s the player we’ve envisioned.”

Toronto had two power plays without a goal and Virtanen scored on Vancouver’s only power play.

“Our PK was great,” Demko said. “They had a couple shots from the outside on the first one, I don’t think they had any others on the second one.”

The Leafs had four shots on their first power play and one on their second.

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With Braden Holtby struggling, Demko will likely get most of the starts for the rest of the season.

“He’s going to continue to play enough games to keep everyone happy,” Green said.

The Maple Leafs were not blaming fatigue entirely for the loss.

“There’s an adjustment to be made coming from one series to the next,” Keefe said. “It’s a different style of game out there and, again, it’s a different game just because (at) the first of the game all of a sudden you’re down 1-0. That makes it hard. We were the team that was getting leads in Edmonton. The game changes. It’s a different game and they’re a different team, Vancouver, when they score first like that.”

Said Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl: “I don’t think that fatigue was really the main factor, and I think Vancouver executed their game plan really well. They didn’t give us a lot of time in the offensive zone. They were hard on pucks. They were moving it well. …We have played a lot of games recently, but that definitely was not the reason. I thought we just got outplayed.”

Auston Matthews has not scored a goal in his past four games, the Toronto center’s longest drought of the season, not including the two games he missed with a wrist injury. He has 18 goals.

The Maple Leafs held the Oilers to one goal over the three games at Edmonton.

“We didn’t get the lead, but we were able to get some pucks at the net and have the puck a lot,” Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said. “Unfortunately, we just fell behind. It’s disappointing. We really wanted to come in off of three really good games and build on that, and not take this one lightly.”

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Pierre Engvall scored for Toronto and Michael Hutchinson made 25 stops in goal.

–Field Level Media